Earlier today, Senator David Norris withdrew his bid to be the ninth President of the Republic of Ireland. Having been slaughtered by the tabloid media regarding inaccurate (and in some cases, fictitious) quotes that painted him as a paedophilia apologist, his campaign was effectively brought to a halt in two stages.
1. Publication of an appeal he made for clemency to the Israeli government in 1997. In this letter (on Seanad letterhead) he asked that Ezra Yitzhak Nawi face a non-custodial sentence for having unlawful but consensual sex with a 15 year old boy.
2. Finian McGrath’s withdrawal of his support for Norris’s nomination, which – in tandem with his cohort of “aligned independents” – finally nailed down the coffin lid for the Senator’s chances of gaining the 20 Oireachtas nods necessary to appear on the ballot paper.
The net result here is that the field of candidates for the Irish election is now reduced to a definite one, probable two, and possible three or more in the form of Gay Mitchell (FG, Dublin), Michael D Higgins (Labour, Galway) and Mary White (“Independent”, but greener than most salads). Debate will rage for the next few days as to who was right, who was wrong, whether using influence to appeal for clemency is appropriate, whether ages of consent are accurate, whether this is a homophobic conspiracy etc etc but what’s really fascinating me at the moment is the question of how this all came to pass.
Let’s look at the obvious suspects here. Already butthurt from his party’s selection of Mitchell over the eternal blow-in of Irish politics, Pat Cox, Emperor Kenny and his inner circle seem determined to take the Aras at any cost. With the exception of O Dalaigh in the mid 70s (an insanely short stay in the park and a cross-party nomination), no FG nominated candidate has ever won this race. Ever. As with all things Irish, Fianna Fail have dominated with Labour sneaking in when possible. At this moment in Irish political history with an unprecedented majority, the largest opposition party actually their junior cabinet partners and a mandate akin to a jewel-encrusted gold statue in the middle of O Connell street, Emperor K shows no intention of losing any fights of any kind. It’s cost him his poker face during the presidential bloodbath already this summer. When initially approached after the party meeting in which his boy lost the nod from the grassroots, he had the traditional microphone jammed in is face. This was his first piece of press grilling after his party had selected their candidacy for the highest office in the land, and his reply was “Well i can’t be ecstatic all the time, can i?”. Not very leader like, oh exalted one. Even if he’s not your first pick he’s captaining YOUR team, now get behind him like any party leader that isn’t sulking like a brat would. I digress. The miraculously appearing nature of this letter has to be questioned and I suspect the answers lie somewhere inside the cabinet. Scared of a fight, Enda?
That being said, nobody benefits more from a liberal being removed from the fight than the man from the west. With Norris now out of the picture, the newly rediscovered Irish liberal wing will no doubt rally behind Michael D Higgins in previously unimaginable numbers. A couple of celebratory drinks in Galway tonight? Sure, why not? Particularly seeing as there may be trouble on the horizon for Mitchell, too. Will the press pick up on this old story in the same way they used the other to bludgeon the “vote Dave” campaign to death? Not a fucking chance of it. If there are three things the Dublin media will always protect, it’s fresh governments, likely winners, and anyone inside the M50. You know, not the Anglo, Trinity, Joycean scholar types. The “real” Dubliners. The ones with more blue in their jerseys than their blood.
Even if opinion polls don’t always turn into hard ballots, the story of this campaign so far has been centred entirely around one man – Senator Norris. No other candidate garnered as many column inches without any backup from a major political party and now that’s all come to an end. Regardless of any possible justification for what he had attempted to do with That Letter, he made the right decision in pulling out of the race. I ‘m still amazed that his machine hadn’t realised that this would come to light sooner or later, especially for a seasoned climber of the slippery pole (anyone giggle and i’ll weep, I swear.). The whole affair shows not only an inability to properly measure his actions but also a lack of preparation for a campaign that draws such scrutiny.
Turns out you weren’t our man, Dave. Best of luck with whatever you do next, and sorry it didn’t work out.